|The Matrix Reloaded (DVD)
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Lambert Wilson, Gloria Foster
Rated R for sci-fi violence and some sexuality.
I’m a little stuck trying to write a Matrix Reloaded review, because I am of two distinct minds about the movie. One mind likes to put the “Chateau Mêlée” chapter on repeat, mostly for the great techno-lite music, but also because it is just plain awesome. In fact, I’ve had the movie on in the background all weekend while I work—but only chapters 20 through 26: the “Chateau Mêlée” through the end of the highway chase. In fact, I would even make the suggestion that the movie consist of nothing but these seven chapters, except for the fact that we would then have no scenes with Agent Smith(s), who is my Imaginary Boyfriend of the Week (“Me… too”).
The other mind groans every time it has to refer to one of the action scenes by its twee little production-assigned name (“Chateau Mêlée,” “Burly Brawl”). Speaking of which—I don’t care if they had to invent “virtual cinematography” for the “Burly Brawl” (ugh); it’s a complete waste of time. The only purpose it serves, as far as I can see, is to get across the nifty fact that Agent Smith is now a lot of Agent Smiths, and this could have been accomplished in about half the time. The rest of the fight is a bunch of guys in black suits whaling on each other and, for about a minute and thirty seconds, in extremely bad CGI at that. Seriously, it looks like those video games where they’ll have a live action clip between levels. And don’t get started on how I must not like action scenes because I’m a girl, because, quite frankly, the action scenes are what I love about the Matrix movies. And the B.B. would probably be all right if it were about half as long and less visually cluttered with flailing Smiths. As for some of the other fights—the one with Seraph the bodyguard comes to mind—they’re nice and all, but they’re performed with all the passion of a dance recital; the actors (and God bless ’em for doing most of their own stunts) and stuntmen come off as too preoccupied with trying to nail the extremely complicated choreography. Even my favorite fight, the Chateau Mêlée (sigh) has this problem in spots, but I think it comes out better because sharp things tend to add at least a little spark to a movie fight, but maybe that’s just me. But then you’ll have Neo sailing over the banister in slo-mo while that other guy runs along the railing and—it just doesn’t get any better than that.
And Trinity’s scorpion kick. And the Virus Twins. They are also awesome.
The problem with the movie is that the rest of the scenes stop the movie dead; the other mind really wishes that someone could put a cork in the philosophical talky-talky, because the other mind isn’t getting any younger over here, quite frankly. I’m not saying I want mindless, nonstop action à la Kill Bill, and the scenes that feature normal human conversation fill the story out nicely. The problem is when you hit the blah blah blah Councillor blah blah blah French Guy blah blah blah Colonel Sanders parts. And after considering it a while, I think the reason these scenes get on my nerves is because I did take a Philosophy in Film class (among other film and other philosophy classes), and I saw plenty of movies that pose complex philosophical questions without actually talking them to death. (See also: Blade Runner, Being There, A Clockwork Orange, Run Lola Run, et al.). In the Matrix movies, however, the Wachowskis seem so desperate to make sure that you get the Deep and Meaningful Philosophical Implications that they’re not letting you leave until they’ve expounded on Choice and Freedom and Purpose and Control. At length. A lot. (It also doesn’t help that Laurence Fishburne’s exaggerated diction has only gotten worse since the first movie: “I Believe. That Tonight. We. Can End. This War. Isn’t That. Worth. Dying. For?” Well, I Believe. I. Can Fast. Forward, Pal.) There’s got to be a way to trim the speechifications down to pithier, more thought-provoking exchanges that don’t leave the viewer stabbing himself with a drinking straw to stay awake. (Also: shut up, Merovingian.)
And if I got bored, I can’t imagine what it was like to see it in the theater. I’m sure that, on a big screen, the fight chez Merovingian and the highway sequence must have been some of the awesomest awesome that ever awesomed. On the other hand, I had an ergonomic chair and free drinks and all the bathroom breaks I wanted, which makes me wonder if DVD isn’t a near-ideal way to watch The Matrix Reloaded.
A word on the DVD: The second disc is almost completely useless. Maybe I was just spoiled by The Matrix Revisited, but I don’t want 22 minutes of people talking about how brilliant and amazing and genius the production of this movie was. I want to see it. I want to see the actors training, I want to see the raw footage of the fight scenes with the wires, I want to see the storyboards and the costume sketches and the set designers—and at length, not just in fleeting little montages running behind EPK interviews. The behind-the-scenes featurette on the highway sequence is the closest we get to something like that; the rest of the disc has features like “Get Me an Exit,” a look at… Matrix advertising? Are you kidding me? Five bucks says they come out with another Matrix Revisited-style disc for one or both of the sequels; at least they had the decency to sell Revisited as a separate add-on disc.